Lilly is considering whether any of its diabetes drugs could be repositioned for additional uses to treat Alzheimer's disease and has begun some preliminary investigations of the area.
The company told PMLiVE that, although the work is a long way behind its focus on the 'amyloid hypothesis' and role of the Tau protein, the potential of diabetes drugs is “an area we are monitoring and interested in”.
“We're certainly doing some preclinical investigation of the potential of that kind of approach,” Lilly's chief scientific officer for neuroscience Dr Mike Hutton told PMLiVE.
Earlier this year the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) detailed its support for six Alzheimer's research projects, including one that uses computational methods to determine if existing drugs for other conditions can be used to treat the disease.
“It's an interesting hypothesis,” said Dr Hutton. “The notion that diabetes and insulin resistance is potentially a risk factor for Alzheimer's has been around for a little while, and there is some data to support it.
“I think we'll have to wait and see just how reliable those observations are - right now it's just a bit too early to say.”
Despite noting the very early-stage of the work, Dr Hutton said discussions had taken place with his colleagues in diabetes about how their molecules might be applied to Alzheimer's disease.
“We've got a lot of interest in GLP-1, for example, as a way to potentially target the insulin resistance that's claimed to be a risk factor for, or a potential driver of, Alzheimer's disease pathology. That's really where we're looking and considering whether we would want to investigate that area.”
Lilly's GLP-1 hopes currently rest on its once-weekly drug dulaglutide, regulatory filings of which are expected later this year in diabetes, supported by strong phase III results.
• Read the full interview with Lilly's Dr Mike Hutton in the November issue of PME